I am posting this both on our blog about Austin and this blog, because while it deals specifically with Asperger's and Austin, it also deals with ignorance about larger families.
Some quick background - Austin has Asperger Syndrome, which is a type of high functioning Autism. Because of AS, he has a lot of sensory issues, plus a lot of anxiety.
For several years, Austin has worn his coat all day long at school. He refuses to take it off. I've spoken with him on several occasions about it when it first started, but then eventually gave up. Last year, because he was at a new school, I had to speak with him about it again because we got a lot of complaints about him wearing his coat all day. He still wore it. This year, there is a new guidance counselor.
When she started, I was so excited. She is fresh out of college and I thought she knew a little bit about AS. Now, I didn't expect her to be an expert, but she had heard of it and acted like she understood it. My hopes were dashed, as she may have heard about it, but understanding it is a whole other thing. She totally doesn't get it.
She has been e-mailing me for a long time and that has been good. However, as the weather got colder, I started getting e-mails about "the teachers" being concerned about Austin wearing his coat all day long and that "he might be cold" and "need more layers."
So, I decided to politely ignore the fact that most of these teachers knew Austin last year and knew that he would not take his coat off, so that didn't seem as much the point. I politely pointed out that he had on several layers under his coat (UnderArmor, a long sleeve shirt, and a hooded sweatshirt), so he was plenty warm and it was more a security/anxiety issue than anything else.
Do you know what she wrote back??? She said, and I quote, 'I'm glad to hear that he has options to wear at home and to help him with layers!' Seriously!?!?!? Like, because we have six kids, we can't possibly afford to clothe all six children and be sure they have enough options to keep them warm. What?!?! I was so offended and so angry that she ignorantly thought that we did not have enough money to afford our children.
Yes, maybe some people cannot afford all the children they have in a larger family. However, most larger families that I know, know that they can afford the children they already have and any future children they may have prior to having more children. Adding to one's family, especially a larger family, is not something taken lightly and not an accident. Everyone I know, myself included, knows they can feed and clothe all of their children in a manner which is weather-appropriate at all times. They may not be designer clothes (and sometimes they may be), but each child has what he/she needs.
In that same e-mail, she mentioned that the teachers were concerned his coat "wasn't clean." Well, I informed her I wash his coat three times a week. She was happy to hear that. I figure if I am washing the coat that often, then they really can't complain about it. It isn't dirty. So I've taken away the two reasons they want him to not wear his coat. And I've spoken with him about it. He's still wearing his coat daily and I'm fine with it. He has on layers, and it's clean - they can say nothing.
Why is a coat such a problem??? And, seriously, of all the issues we have had with him, why pick on the coat?? And if that's their only complaint right now, then we are doing MIGHTY good!!!